If you’re like me, you often forget Derrick Rose is a Cleveland Cavalier. It certainly isn’t hard to do, considering the season he’s had so far.
The former MVP joined the team on a small investment, expecting to prove to the NBA he’s still worthy of a lucrative deal. Instead, all we’ve seen is the usual – injuries and an impromptu hiatus from the team.
The Cavs, for the most part, have appeared supportive of Rose to the media. Many believe it’s a different story behind closed doors. The mercurial point guard’s place on the team seemed to be on shaky ground recently, and things might’ve gotten even more precarious now that Isaiah Thomas has returned from his hip injury.
To be blunt – with Thomas back in the fold, Rose is now as expendable as ever for Cleveland.
It’s not difficult to sum up Rose’s time with the Cavs. Of the 38 games Cleveland has played this year, he’s appeared in seven. When he did appear, he wasn’t what you’d call “effective.” Rose has contributed 15 points or more just three times, and has been a turnstile defensively.
Of course, since it’s Rose we’re talking about, all of this has been overshadowed by off-court issues. A hiatus taken around Thanksgiving had everyone once again wondering if he was even invested in playing this year. Though he’s since returned – giving his teammates a much-needed apology – it’s still tough to see him as reliable, what with that whole “I don’t know if I want to play the sport of basketball anymore” thing.
Back then, though, the only other point guard Cleveland had on the roster was 36-year-old Jose Calderon. Now that the Cavs have a two-time All-Star available in Thomas, they’re back to having three players in the same position. Someone’s minutes are going to get cut, or just plain erased from the game-plan.
I know what you’re thinking. “Would you really rather play Calderon over Rose?” It’s a fair question, since, yes, Rose is the better basketball player of the two.
However, I’m not comparing them to see who’s more talented. I’m looking at which of the two is the best fit.
From that perspective, results overwhelmingly favor Calderon. As insane as it is to say this out loud, you need only look at how Cleveland has performed with him getting key minutes.
Remember, the Cavs started this season looking old, listless and completely unorganized. At one point, the team was 5-7, with everyone being quick to label it as dead in the water.
Once Rose took his sabbatical, Cleveland was forced to start Calderon. However, instead of playing worse, the Cavs instead put forth their best basketball of the season. Relied upon simply to keep the offense moving, Calderon did his job well enough to help the team win all but two of their 21 games between November 11 and Christmas.
Again, Calderon is nobody’s idea of a starting point guard. Still, the team played noticeably better with him at the helm than it did relying on Rose. This is certainly not lost on the players or the front office.
Neither is the fact Rose is signed to an incredibly team-friendly contract. He’s only on a one-year deal worth a little over $2 million, something which will certainly be appealing for teams looking to clear cap space at the trade deadline.
To sum it up – in Rose, Cleveland has a player who has struggled when on the court, struggled at staying on the court, alienated his teammates a month into the season and is on an appealing trade chip of a contract. If you’re looking for someone who would qualify as expendable, I’m not sure you’ll find a better candidate.
The bottom line is Rose is not the same player from 2011. Not even close. His stepping away from the team reportedly had some within the locker room wondering if he’ll ever play another meaningful minute for the Cavs. Toss in the fact the team played just fine, if not better, relying on Calderon, and you can see why Rose probably shouldn’t get too comfortable.
Despite hoping to prove his critics wrong, Rose has instead just provided more evidence his best days are behind him. As a result, don’t be surprised if the Cavs cut ties earlier than planned.